☡┬
home message archives FAQ Submit Rules Submit Categories

▶ Buru

When one thinks of the Himalayas, dense forests and swamps certainly don’t come to mind. Rather, pictured is the earth’s highest mountain region, containing 9 of the 10 highest peaks in the entire world (including Everest). But though the Himalayas, overall, are tall, long, and wide, forming a broad continuous arc for nearly 1,600 miles (2,600 km) along the northern fringes of the Indian subcontinent, they are divided into three parallel zones that differ greatly in topography. They are: the Great Himalayas, the Middle Himalayas (or Inner or Lesser Himalayas), and the Sub-Himalayas. As presupposed, the Greater Himalayas consist of a huge line of snowy peaks, the Middle Himalayas consist primarily of high ranges both within and outside of the Great Himalayan range, and the Sub-Himalayas consist of foothills and long, flat-bottomed valleys, known as duns.

One of these valleys, known as the Apa Tani valley, located in one of the world’s most isolated and seldom-visited areas, is, or was, home to animals of mythical, legendary nature. In this swampy, spongy, isolated 20 square mile valley, rimmed by the towering Himalayas, in the farthest reaches of northeast India, the creatures lived, and their tales have been told by the Apa Tani and Dafla tribes living in the region. The tribes handed these tales down in tribal lore for generations, and finally, in the 20th century, they came to ears of the white man. The name of the creature: The Buru.


Description

There is no perfect consensus regarding the Buru’s length, but it is said to be between 12-15 feet long (3.5-4.5 m), with skin like a "scale-less fish" and three rows of short, blunt spines running down its sides and back. Its head is "long shaped," and elongates into a great snout that is flattened at the tip. The teeth are flat teeth, like a human, save for a pair in the upper and lower jaw that are pointed and large ”like that of a tiger or boar”. A mottled bluish-white best describes the Buru’s color, with an underbelly of whitish hue. It has stumpy, short legs about a foot and a half (50 cm) long, and feet that are heavily clawed. The claws, interestingly, resemble "the forefeet of a burrowing mole". It also sports a lengthy, powerful tail about 5 feet (1.5 m) in length and rowed with armored plates. These descriptions were given by leading men of several nearby villages, who were carefully questioned separately by Ralph Izzard, a man we will touch upon later. All in all, to say that the creature is unique would be an understatement.


Habits

The Buru is almost entirely aquatic, and will put their heads out of the water and make a loud, hoarse bellow. According to locals, they have been seen nosing in the muddy banks of the lake, and wave their head and neck from side to side when doing so.


Habitat

The valley in question is located in the Indian province of Assam, which is bordered by the nations of Bhutan and Bangladesh. This province could in fact provide the needed habitat for a reptilian-like creature, with its humid, subtropical climate and extremely heavy rainfall (ranges from about 70 to nearly 100 inches a year, or 1,800 to nearly 2,500 mm). In January, the average temperatures range from 50 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 23 C), while in July they average from 79 to 90 F (26 to 32 C). Assam is primarily covered with dense tropical forests of bamboo, while thick evergreens grow at higher elevations. It is home to a host of other animals, such as the tiger, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and bear.[2]


The Search

The first mention of the Buru seems to have come from Professor Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf, an anthropologist, who in 1947 wrote about the Apu Tani and their isolated location. Despite the altitude, he wrote, their valley was swampy and thickly forested. What was most intriguing about his article, however, was the following comment: ”The bottom of the valley — according to local tradition — was once a marshy swamp inhabited by lizard-like monsters…” [3]

Believed to be the first to venture to this distant community in search of the Buru was English zoologist and agricultural officer Charles Stonor. He made the first detailed reports on the Apa Tani valley in 1948, and today is still considered the best source of information about the isolated community. Stonor wrote detailed accounts of the Apa Tani people, their land, legends, and, of course, their Buru.

When told of the animal, Stonor was puzzled, yet convinced. Surely, these thirty or so tribespeople who avidly described for him in rich detail the peculiar animals were telling the truth. Though fierce and dragon-like in description, they told him that the Buru tended to keep to themselves. They could be aggressive, however, as the Apu Tani also related a few stories of human attacks, one of which included a hunter who, after threatening a Buru’s young, had been drowned when the mother struck him with her powerful tail. The tribespeople also said that the Buru remained holed up in the recesses of the swamp during dry periods, while during the rainy season, when the swamp became a lake, they came up to frolic.

All the excitement was soon overshadowed, however, by the realization that the Apu Tani spoke in the past tense. That is, the animals had sadly been driven to extinction as the Apa Tani population had grown. Understandably, the people needed more food, and so the swamps were drained for farmland. The Buru, in turn, were driven to a few pools and destroyed.


Ralph Izzard

Stonor returned and reported the fanciful tales of the Buru, but as fanciful as they may have been, the stories did not fall on deaf ears. Rather, they fell on the open ears of Ralph Izzard, an adventurous correspondent for the London Daily Mail who was on assignment in Delhi, India. While in a cozy bungalow in the dead of winter, sharing a brandy and cigars in front of a log fire with A.P.F. Hamilton of the Indian Forestry Service, Izzard remarked that it was a pity that so little of the earth was left to explore.

What followed would change Ralph Izzard’s life.

"I wouldn’t be so sure," Hamilton replied, and with that he told Ralph about Charles Stonor’s discovery of a “Lost Valley,” said to be the home of Saurian animals. Izzard was immediately hooked, and with that he wrote Stonor. Letters were exchanged, and in one in particular, Stonor made the following comment:

"What the beast is, assuming it to be there, I cannot say. It must be a reptile, and is said to be the size of an ox, with a prominent snout. One suggestion is that it is some sort of primitive crocodilian; it might even be a dinosaur."[4]

Soon afterwards, an expedition was planned and formed. They would be funded by the Daily Mail and the governor of the India himself, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. And so, with camera and provisions to last them 100 days, the two men and a host of porters took to the swamp.

Hope for finding a Buru in the Apa Tani valley was lost, but rumors that the animals were still alive and well in the nearby and even more remote valley of Rilo sparked the courage of the men, who spent months searching for the dragon of lore, hacking, slogging, and enduring heavy rain with the endless bites of leeches, mosquitoes, and dim-dam flies. At times they thought they saw strange shadows on the surface of the water, but in the end, there was simply not a Buru to be found. Even the very pool where the Buru were said to live was so shallow that it "could not have concealed as much as an otter … We found it little more than three feet deep," according to Izzard.[5] The only consolation was that they came to the Rilo during the season when the Buru were said to hibernate in the mud.


Identification

It is difficult to properly identify the Buru given the known descriptions. One doesn’t have to think hard to imagine a type of stegosaur, such as a tuojiangosaurus or wuerhosaurus (who, like the Buru, possessed blunt, short plates on its back). If the animals did in fact die out within the last one hundred years or so, finding their bones is a possibility, and only then could the Buru be positively classified.